Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1976, Augusto Esquivel is a sculptor who, in his own words, is “obsessed with comparisons of reality and potential and the balance between them, in art: the idea of chaos in perfect order: an object seemingly solid to the eye can also be fragile and inconsistent to the touch.” Perhaps the best example of what he’s talking about is also his most famous creations: the suspended button sculptures.
Made entirely from buttons hanging on various lengths of string, Esquivel’s sculptures are made to look like common objects: a fire hydrant, a piano, a gumball machine, and even a toilet (complete with toilet paper roll). If it wasn’t for the clear string hanging above, these objects, these sculptures, would look solid, yet you can put your hands right through them. The process starts with him deciding on a subject and setting the acrylic from where the buttons are being suspended. From there, he buys buttons of different shapes and sizes, paints them with spray paint, and carefully hangs them. After that, it’s a manner of hanging each individual button, which can be extremely time consuming. For his piano, for example, he individually hung over 60 pounds worth of tiny sewing buttons.
Esquivel’s sculptures, while mostly housed inside art galleries, perfectly capture one of the main tennents of street art: something that is eye-catching, or at least immediate, and something that invites interaction. Often the best sculptures outside the art galleries aren’t the ones behind guards and fencing, but the ones people can go right up to and touch. In Vancouver, a series of laughing old men are constantly attracting people for pictures and to just generally hang around or off of, but the people who simply walk by and see the sculptures almost always leave with a smile on their face. That’s good street art: it draws the viewer in rather than relying on a gallery to draw in an audience and point them to certain pieces. Of course, these hanging sculptures need an indoor environment, but Esquivel has taken a page from street art for its immediacy.
But Esquivel’s art is also a demonstration of talent, something that speaks to larger philosophical questions, like the ones he stated above, but also just the combination of interesting idea and painstaking work. One can look at his work from a critical perspective, or simply stand in awe of his idea and execution.
Esquivel also takes a more blue collar approach to his art. When recently asked about his process, his “calling” as an artist, he dismissed the usual muse approach. Instead, he argued that “you either make the decision to do art,or you don’t, and then you act accordingly… I feel far from being a ‘call’. It is also a lot of hard work! Like any other job.”
For more details please visit Augusto Esquivel’s website.